Teaching series from 1 Corinthians

Resurrected Bodies

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Teaching t05417


Remind of theme of vs 1-19: Jesus' resurrection is a non-negotiable (WHY?). But there is more (read vs 20,23). Jesus' resurrection brings with it the assurance that we can be resurrected also (explain "FIRST-FRUITS").

Here we run head-on against the modern view of death which views it as the "final stage of growth" (Kubler-Ross), or as a return of the life-force to emerge in another life-form, etc. Yes, we must accept physical death as a reality, but never as something natural or good. Death is an aberration, an obscenity, a blight on the human race because of its alienation from God. Jesus was outraged by it, wept over its horror—and attacked it as an enemy to be defeated (Jn. 11; vs 26). Because he defeated it, he was raised from the dead with a new body, and he has extended this possibility to us as well.

The idea of a resurrected body naturally raises a host of questions. In 1 Cor. 15:35-58, Paul anticipates and answers five of the most important ones. Read vs 35. This verse actually poses two questions. Paul answers the first one in vs 36-41, and the second one in vs 42-44.

How is this possible? (vs 36-41)

Read vs 36-41. There are always people who say that such an idea is impossible, and who mock it by asking questions like "What if you're drowned and eaten by fish? What if you're burnt up by fire? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Paul has very little patience with such people ("You fool!"). The issue is not really one of possibility—it is an issue of whether or not God exists. If he exists, he is certainly able to give us resurrected bodies. If he can transform a plant's "body" from "seed" to "grass," certainly he is capable of transforming our present mortal bodies to ones that are immortal. If he has created a virtually limitless variety of bodies for life-forms in this world, why is it impossible for him to give us bodies suited for the next world? If he is capable of creating heavenly bodies with different degrees of radiance, he is certainly capable of doing so with us.

What are they like? (vs 42-44)

Our new bodies evidently have a basic continuity with our present bodies, but they also have some very different properties. In vs 42-44, Paul describes them by way of four contrasts to our present bodies:

PERISHABLE: Our present bodies are subject to malfunction, injury and aging. While marvelously made, they are "winding down" from the moment we are born. Billions of dollars are spent every year to forestall this (MEDICINE) or to hide it (COSMETICS).

IMPERISHABLE: Our resurrected bodies will not be subject to malfunction, injury or aging. They will be "bionic" in the truest sense of the word.

DISHONOR: As creatures made in God's image, we were designed to manifest God's invisible greatness not only morally, but even visibly (PRISM). Because of the Fall, our bodies simply do not do this.

GLORY: Our resurrected bodies will somehow visibly manifest God's greatness and splendor. When humans are permitted to see angels, they are overwhelmed with the sheer presence of them (see Dan. 10:5-11). Heb. 2:7 implies that our new bodies will be greater than this.

WEAKNESS: Our bodies are subject to rather extreme physical limitations. We marvel that athletes can long jump over 29 feet, but we don't ever expect them to go 2900 feet, etc. Much of our technology is designed to overcome our physical limitations (SATELLITE TV & PHONE).

POWER: Our resurrected bodies will evidently not be subject to the limitations of physical matter or the laws of nature. Jesus' post-resurrection appearances make this clear. He could enter a room when the door was shut (Jn. 20:9), vanish from sight while talking with others (Lk. 24:30,31), remain unrecognized by others until special perception was granted (Lk. 24:15,16,31; Jn. 20:15,16), and defy gravity in ascending from the earth to disappear in the clouds (Acts 1:9).

NATURAL: This body is suited for life on land, but not for life under water. If I want to visit the ocean floor, I have to wear SCUBA gear—but if I wanted to permanently live there I'd need some substantial changes to this body. In the same way, our present bodies are suited for life in this portion of reality which we call "natural." But the next life will be a different order of reality, and this body is presently not suited for it (vs 50).

SPIRITUAL: Our resurrected bodies will be real, not immaterial. But they will probably be composed of a material like the bodies of the angels (Lk. 20:36)—perfectly suited to live in the very presence of God and his new universe.

This description should lead us to ask another question . . .

How can I get one? (vs 45-49)

Read vs 45-49. Paul tells us that Adam and Jesus are similar in that they are both inaugurators of a race of humans. Because Adam's body is made of earthy materials, those who descend from him also receive earthy bodies (vs 48a,49a). Because Jesus' new body is made of heavenly materials, those who descend from him receive heavenly bodies (vs 48b,49b).

What does all this have to do with answering the question? The point is this: body-type is determined by descent. In order to have an earthy body, you must become a descendant of the first one to have one—Adam. In order to get a new body, you must become a descendant of the first one to have a new body—Jesus.

How can we be born into Jesus' family when he never had any children? Jesus answered this in his discussion with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:5,6,16). Birth into the new humanity is not like birth into the old one. One is physical and by the choice of your parents; the other is spiritual and by your choice to put your trust in Jesus as your Savior.

Have you made this decision? This is the only way to receive a new body.

When do I get it? (vs 50-54)

Read vs. 51a. Here Paul tells us a "mystery" - something not previously revealed in scripture. The Old Testament (Dan. 12:2) and Jesus (Jn. 5:28,29) revealed that there would be a resurrection at the end of the age. But God has revealed something more about this resurrection to Paul.

Read vs. 51b-52. All Christians will receive resurrected bodies, but some will receive theirs without first experiencing physical death. As Paul also relates in 1 Thess. 4:15-17, sometime shortly before the return of Jesus to the earth, he will lift up all believers to meet him in the air (Latin rapiemure >> RAPTURE). Those who have died will receive their new bodies at that time; those still living will have their bodies transformed instantaneously. Like Enoch and Elijah, they will never experience death; they will be translated from one order of life to another. Then our salvation will be complete (read vs 53,54).

NOTE: Those who die believing in Christ before the rapture go to be consciously and personally with him in heaven (Lk. 23:43; Phil. 1:23), but they don't receive their resurrected bodies until this event.

How should this change my life? (vs 55-58)

If we really will receive resurrected bodies when Jesus returns, if we really will live forever with Christ, this should revolutionize our lives in at least two ways.

It should liberate you from the fear of death (vs 55-57). Sure, there is still the sorrow of being separated from loved ones. But the real terror of death is the deep-seated knowledge that I will account to God and that I do not measure up to his righteous demands. Christians, however, know their sins are completely forgiven through Jesus' death, and therefore know that physical death is the entrance into eternal life with Christ rather than to God's condemnation.

It should motivate you to live for Christ (vs 58). We should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord."

Because Christ has assured us of eternal life, I should give myself with utter abandon to his service instead of playing it safe and living self-protectively. "I've taken care of the next life—now give me everything you've got in this life!"

What is "the work of the Lord?" See Col. 1:28,29. It is working with Christ to get more people into his kingdom and to get more of his kingdom into those already in. This work involves reaching out in love to lost people and sharing the gospel, helping young Christians to grow in their faith, and investing our time and talents and gifts and money in ways calculated to advance Christ's kingdom both locally and world-wide.

These words (labor; strive) speak of intense toil that causes you sweat and fatigue, and of straining for the finish line. There is a great work to be done, and we need to integrate the various parts of our lives around this work and throw ourselves into it with all of our might. Is this the AXIS around which your life revolves—or only a peripheral factor? Is this the work in which your best resources are being invested—or something you throw the leftovers at? Is your role in this work becoming more clear to you—or does it remain abstract and nebulous? Are you more effective at it now than you were a year ago—or is proficiency in other things more important to you?

As you step out in faith to live this way of life, God will help you integrate our lives around this purpose and empower you—and give you a joy and fullness of life which makes all sacrifice more than worth it.

This is the kind of life I am committed to.This is what this church is committed to. Is this what you are committed to?